On track to break 1 BILLION streams worldwide this year, MISSIO released their new album on October 23, recorded with longtime collaborator and producer Dwight A. Baker. COLLiDE got the chance to chat with Matthew Brue and David Butler of MISSIO about some of the LP’s major themes and how they tie into life in the lockdown.
How did growing up in Austin influence you sonically?
David: That is an interesting question because in the beginning I think we struggled with feeling like outcasts. Austin’s not exactly known for alternative electronic music in its youthful upbringing in the seventies with country. Austin has a rich history in songwriting and a rich history regarding people who create music with independent thought, and those are things that we value greatly in what we do. We’re songwriters first but we also just value our uniqueness, and I think we’re going to stick to that.
Matthew: I don’t know if Austin necessarily inspired us musically, but I’d say the general aesthetic and vibe of Austin helps inspire. For instance, we have so many really awesome hiking trails and stuff out here and really rad lakes and things that people can go do and experience. It’s very nature-based and oriented. So when it comes to spending all your time in a studio and on tour, when we get back to this little Oasis and it’s like, “Oh, okay. I can finally breathe.” That kind of inspires our music in that way.
Who are some of your musical heroes?
Matthew: Radiohead is a big one for me. Ben Gifford from Death Cab for Cutie is another big one… also Sigur Rós. We love old school hip hop so Missy Elliott, Three 6 Mafia, and Mike Jones are huge too. Those are my immediate tops.
David: Yeah, that covered a great bit. I think in the early early days, when we were trying to figure out what we were going to do, we really vibed with a lot of artists that had a little more cinematic touch to what they did. So, James Blake, Sigur Rós, Son Lux, Gorillaz, M.I.A…. those were some eclectic artists that don’t fit in the box, and I think that’s always been what we’ve aspired to be. We just want to do whatever the fuck we want to do. You know? And so, artists that do that, I think those are the most inspiring.
How has the lockdown been for you? Has it altered your outlook on your music or creativity?
David: I think it’s had an impact for sure. I mean, I think we respond to our environments as artists. So, the environment has changed a lot, but it’s also brought out a lot of good things. It’s helped us to reconnect on a macro scale with our humanness. It also forced us to make some really important decisions, because we had a lot of people on our team telling us, “Don’t release music now. It’s a bad time to put out music. You can’t go on tour.” and it forced us to really think about, “well, what do we want to do? What would that mean if we delayed the release?” and what it ultimately came down to was that our ultimate value is the process of writing songs is that’s what we love to do. I think we also believe that music has like a relevancy, right? We wrote this music now, so we’re going to get this stuff out. So, we’re just trusting our gut, putting the music out there, and then seeing where it goes and just believing that it’s supposed to be out right now.
Matthew: Early in the lockdown, my therapist asked me a question and she said, “what are some of your hobbies? Like, what do you like to do?” and I literally couldn’t answer her because I was like, “well, I like to write songs.” and she said, “No, that doesn’t count because that’s what you do for a living.” and I realized, the last three to four years of my life has just been touring and working. I don’t really know what else I do. So, a lot of the early time in quarantine was spent kind of relearning what it is that I like to do, and who I am, and obviously that spurs into experience for writing. So, I think I’m interested to see what our next album turns into, because it will be about a lot of these experiences from this year and learning what’s going on inside of our hearts and our minds. I’m really eager, and I definitely appreciated the time that we had, where we focused on stopping and reevaluating life in general.
I completely understand the idea of writing being situational, and feeling like you have to release music while it’s still relevant to your life. I also think the roadblocks that exist in certain moments create their own level of uniqueness to your writing.
David: Yeah, exactly. You look in and you always hear every artist say, “yeah, we wrote this on the road” but honestly for us, it’s very difficult to write on the road for various reasons. Well, maybe our keyboard or guitar is in the trailer in the back, but not right in front of us. Those instruments go on stage every night, but during the day, they’re just packed away, and that’s a lot of effort to go get them out. So what we end up doing is just keeping really good notes… essentially like journals. Then when we’re in the studio and we are in that creative space where we have those tools available, we can use those notes to jog our memories, and having those things come flooding back in is what fuels the whole process for us, you know?
Can you tell me about your new LP coming out, Can You Feel The Sun?
Matthew: We went into the studio in November and we knew that we wanted to write an album but didn’t know what that was going to be quite yet. So, we came in with a lot of demos. The word that we like to use is supernatural because a lot of times when you go into the studio, you kind of have to work to get a song to where you want it to be; it’s like a puzzle. But for whatever reason, we went in and… song one: crushed it, song two: crushed it. We were moving through them really quickly, matching each other’s melodies and ideas, and it was just unreal. We were on this random, weird pace with each other as if we were in the same place, oddly enough, and we ended up writing a full record in 21 days without realizing what would be coming around the corner in 2020 — obviously with COVID and the rioting and elections and all kinds of stuff.
What’s been the most beautiful thing is that the record is speaking into all of these current situations and helping people get through their own mental health issues. I mean, I myself know someone recently who’s been struggling with some severe mental health issues and one of our songs has been helping her get through it, and yeah… that blows my mind. We couldn’t have seen that a year ago and been like, “Oh shit, this one song is going to help you through your own stuff.” So, I feel like this whole record is speaking to people in a very specific way, and hopefully it will help allow them to kind of question some things in their own lives: some ideologies, religious beliefs, or whatever the case may be… just getting them to think for themselves a little bit and not be so apropos to following behind what society says they should or shouldn’t do.
David: I think I’ll touch on the actual theme of nature that’s in that title and all over the record. I feel like, culturally speaking, when we wrote loner. It’s become obvious that everybody’s struggling with anxiety and depression and we’re making great progress in acknowledging that, which is good, but there’s a lack of the question, “what do people do with their anxiety and their depression?” It’s not enough to just say I have it; we have to be able to start dealing with it, and the things that we learned from this last year — a lot of it from traveling, being exposed, and being really pulled out of our comfort zones with other cultures and just getting to see the world from all these different angles — we kind of fell in love with nature and its ability to shift your perspective if you allow it to.
So, songs like “Don’t Forget To Open Your Eyes” and “Can You Feel The Sun” are about telling yourself to pause in the race that you’re running right now and that… it’s okay to just stop and watch the sunset. Watch the sunrise, go be in nature, go be in silence, go on a hike, take a walk, and just breathe. Those types of things are not going to solve any specific problem, but they give you the chance to approach your problems from different angles that you couldn’t see before. Mental health and all of these topics are going to become major themes in our culture as we figure out how to deal with these crazy times we’re in, you know?
Matthew: I hate to admit it, but my mom kept trying to get me to get a dog and I was like,
“fuck that I don’t an animal or any of that” but it has actually helped me because I have to go take him out all the time.
Who have you been listening to recently? Do you feel like any of those artists helped inspire the music on your new LP?
Matthew: Personally Rosalia, which is so far fetched from what we do. Her last record impacted me in a way that I didn’t fully expect because it’s so different. She taps into some old Spanish traditions musically, and I just thought it was so creative. She really doesn’t use snares at all — instead she uses things like car engines and really creative ways to produce some of her tones, and I just remember listening to the record over and over and being like, this whole thing is so creative from front to back because of the way she approached it. It’s a beautiful art piece, but then it also fits on the radio. So, she was a really big inspiration.
David: Yeah, my favorite record at that time, and honestly still, has been James Blake’s Assume Form, even though it’s not necessarily relative to what we’re doing. I haven’t heard a love record like that in a long time and it just felt so original to me. That’s one of the hardest things to do originally now is, not write some cheesy love song, but make it really fresh. So, that record blew me away.
Were there any major challenges when making Can You Feel The Sun?
Matthew: Keeping up with ourselves. I think we are our own worst critics sometimes, and I think this will be the case for anything that we do. I remember going in having a lack of self-confidence for the first time in a long time because we had two really strong, successful records, and it felt like we had to really prove ourselves with a third one. That also gave us freedom to go, “We’re going to do whatever the hell we want,” but at the same time, in my own mind, I was always thinking, “Is this as good as a Loner? Is this as good as I See You or The Darker The Weather?” So that was a struggle for me. It just takes constant reminding to be like, “Hey, get over your bullshit, man. You’re making art. It’s beautiful. It’s going to touch people,” and that’s just what it’s going to be.
David: I think in the beginning I struggled with how fast we were actually working. It kind of blew my mind, I guess, because I remember on day two, we had two songs done already and I was like, “Hmm, man, are we going too fast?” I know it sounds crazy, but I started second guessing myself. I remember I had to sit down and talk to Dwight about it. I had to work out all my stuff and then from that point forward, it was like, “Okay, now we’re going to go even faster.” and it worked.
Do you have a favorite song from the LP?
Matthew: I go back and forth all the time. I think we both do, but “Don’t Forget To Open Your Eyes” from the minute we wrote it, just impacted me in a way I didn’t fully expect. Again, because all of this was pre COVID, pre shutdown, pre all of that stuff, and I was really struggling with mental health issues in March and April. I remember I had just moved to my own place and the sun sets in the West here… it would just shine in through my giant windows. And I was reminded of, “Don’t forget to open your eyes. Don’t forget that there’s a sunrise.” Every single day, those lyrics would come to my mind, and it was this reminder of what David touched on earlier about nature healing, you. It was healing me.
I had never, in my life, spent consecutive days staring at nature and putting my phone down, and just having an attitude of thankfulness or gratefulness in those moments. So, it’s that song that helped me do that. And to me, it’s just a testament of how often I need to be doing that when I get stressed out because it really does impact me in the best of ways. So yeah, that song will always be my reminder of what 2020 was like because in a lot of ways, it was like my medicine.
David: I have to say, “Can You Feel The Sun.” I know it’s already getting a lot of love because it’s the title track, but at the end of the day, that song is as close to what I think of when I think of a masterpiece that we could create. To me, it’s representative of our hearts and our musical talents because it’s very philosophical, yet darkly beautiful. My favorite kind of music is sad yet hopeful at the same time, which is also how I’d describe Matthew and I; we’re pretty dark, hopeful people… as odd as that sounds. So anyways, I’m just really proud of it and it still moves me every time I listen to it. That’s the magic that we’re always going for.
Matthew: Yeah, it’s kind of hard to end up touring with these songs because you end up playing them so much that you forget sometimes about those initial ways that the songs impacted you. So, I hope that we don’t lose that on this record.
If you could collaborate with anyone, who would it be?
Matthew: Honestly, I would flip the fuck out if we could collaborate with Radiohead, just because — I know it’s kind of cliche at this point— but they’re just so talented and so unique in what they do.
David: I’m going to go with James Blake. We’ve talked about how fun it would be to just sit in the studio and produce sounds together. That would be awesome.
Matthew: James Blake is like the modern R&B version of Radiohead because he’s so left of center and outside the box. He’s amazing.
Check out the lyric video for title track, “Can You Feel The Sun” here:
And check out the full album on Spotify here: